Trans Australian Football Player Opens Up About Receiving Hundreds Of Death Threats

Hannah Mouncey is marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) by reflecting on the chaos brought about by her visibility and mistreatment by the AFLW.

Australian football player Hannah Mouncey is opening up on this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) about the harmful impacts of transphobia, including revealing that she has received hundreds of death threats as a visible athlete.

Mouncey, a former handball standout both before and after transitioning, was told she would be able to play in the AFLW, the Australian rules football league for women, last year. The league reversed that decision, however, less than a day before the draft. 

In doing so, it invoked the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, which states that athletes can be discriminated against based on their sex or gender identity “where the strength, stamina or physique of competitors is relevant to the specific activity.”

She said that despite having testosterone levels below the average female, the AFL “didn’t care,” Fox Sports reports.

“The AFL’s entire process for judging whether I could play was asking what I could benchpress, what I could squat and what I could dead lift,” she added.

In an op-ed for The Guardian she explains how the decision left her jobless and without a place to live, after she left her home in Canberra to move to Melbourne to play in the league.

The situation brought months of stress and chaos, before she was picked up by the Darebin Falcons, in the rival Victorian Women’s Football League (VWFL), where she has said she feels welcomed.

Mouncey reports due to the visibility brought about by her high profile story, which was a popular topic on 24 hour sports shows and across social media, she received over 500 death threats sent to her personal email.

While she notes in her op-ed that she feels lucky to have a strong support network and a career, and that many in the trans community aren’t as fortunate.

She states that “with the latest figures showing 80% of young trans people having self-harmed, 48% reporting having attempted suicide at some point in their lives and rates of depression and anxiety approximately 10 times higher than other young Australians, it is important that people are aware of the impact their actions have.”

And she wants people to understand that the negativity and uninformed comments, like criticism from retired Australian football star Chris Judd, hurts more than just the individual being criticized.

“Every negative comment in the media, whether directed towards a specific person or not, is incredibly harmful to the entire trans community,” she writes. “And this isn’t just restricted to those of us of an age where we can engage thoughtfully with the media; it’s the message it sends to trans kids that is truly damaging. They largely don’t have the ability to recognize who is or isn’t worth listening too; instead they take it all in like a sponge and absorb every negative comment they might come across.”

“I can guarantee that in my case – where comments relating to my situation could generally be summarized as: ’trans women shouldn’t play football, they’re not female enough’ – the message being absorbed by tens of thousands of trans people out there is: ’trans people don’t belong in normal society,'” she continues.

She reveals that when she realized she was trans, around the age of 24 or 25, she was disheartened by articles she read about other famous individuals who had recently transitioned, including Caitlyn Jenner.

“Imagine processing those messages and images as a 10 or 15 year old,” she says. “The messaging needs to change.”

A spokesperson for the AFL said it was “incredibly distressing” to learn Mouncey had been targeted by hate mail, and said a transgender policy was still in the making.

Mouncey would consider playing in the league, she says, noting “the opportunity came along to play football and if the opportunity came around to play AFLW then I’d give it a crack.”

Journalist based in Charlotte, North Carolina, whose work has appeared in The Charlotte Observer, Creative Loafing, and more.